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The impact of stress on our mind and body

Stress is a big word these days, we all have it to some degree. The cost of living, interest rates and the pace at which we function is the highest it's ever been. Not to mention the many roles we play in our lives, if you're a parent, you're most likely working, doing mum duties you know the drill - school pick drop off, pick up, afterschool events, breaking up sibling rivalry at home, paying the bills, the cleaning lady, the cook and it never. never. stops.


As I sit in my office writing this blog I have approximately 20 minutes until I need to do the kindergarten run and then it's round two - all guns blazing - Dinner, bath time, teeth, book time, then the hourly struggle to convince my 3 year old she needs sleep in order to function again tomorrow, then I clean up the kitchen, put a load of washing, do a round of my Les Mills exercise and it's pretty much 10pm before I see those soft fluffy white pillows just waiting for me to rest my weary head on. We put our children's health and well being first, all the while forgetting that we too are humans that need a little decompression.


We all just, take it on the chin, keep going because that's life!

Right? The question now is, have we all just become accustomed to the affects stress has on our mental health? Let's do a deep dive on the affects stress has on our body and how we can best manage it with a little bit of art therapy...


What are the consequences of Stress?

There are pathological, sociological, emotional and mental consequences of stress that can have lifelong effect if not managed in adaptive ways. Stress can lead to lower productivity at work resulting in job loss, higher blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks, unhealthy eating patterns that can lead in obesity, disruptions to the natural circadian rhythms our body relies on for adequate sleep which again, can lead to heart problems. On a mental health note, stress can lead to depression and anxiety. Just one or a combination of these factors can result in social isolation, a deterioration of relationships, poor quality of life and wellbeing and furthermore – a reduced life expectancy. SO really, it's just this giant catastrophising issue that can, at the start, go unnoticed. But if we live in the glory of the denial, soon we will be the crazy cat lady.



Just like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music, let's start at the very beginning.... There are three types of stress, and it's kinda handy to know if you think you feel stressed.


There are three types of stress...

According to Health and Harmony Colleges, there are three types of stress - acute stress, episodic stress and chronic stress.

ACUTE STRESS: This is a brief period of stress as a response to the demands and pressures of a specific situation, such as an exam deadline, project development, or a traumatic event.


EPISODIC STRESS: This type of stress refers to individuals that experience acute stress regularly. This repetitive series of acute stress is defined as episodic, and can relate to really stressful challenges and demand, such as trying to keep on top of personal debt, being diagnosed with a serious

illness, or going through the process of finalising a divorce or marriage separation. When we have episodic stress, we worry endlessly about bad things that may happen, and will become impatient and emotionally drained and/or overwhelmed.




CHRONIC STRESS: Chronic Stress – ongoing demands, pressures and worries that never seem to end contribute to the development of chronic stress. This type of stress is harmful to our health and wellness, and can negatively affect our work, relationships and quality of life. Those with chronic stress tend to adopt a pessimist attitude towards their life.




There are also a whole host of symptoms you can keep an eye out for if you think you are experiencing stress. Some symptoms include headache, tight chest, Headache and migraines, Muscular tension, soreness and pain, upset stomach, cramps, indigestion, high blood pressure, poor immunity, weakened immune system, insomnia and other sleeping problems, anxiety, nervousness, anger, impatience, irritability short fuse, depression, unexplained feelings of meaningless, fatigue – both physically and emotionally feeling overwhelmed and out of control Lack of confident and poor self-esteem. These stress symptoms are a direct signal from our body to us identifying stress in our life, and will vary depending on people. For example, experiencing headaches, tension in the shoulders, becoming short tempered, or tightness in the jaw, are all


Art therapy is a great way to decompress our stress, This simple art activity can be completed by your self and requires just some pencils or texters. You can choose to add in paint or collaging if you like.



 

ART THERAPY ACTIVITY

DRAWING STRESS SYMBOLS



Drawing Dress Symbols are designed to identify stress in our body and the messages this stress is expressing to us. This activity requires access to a Jungian or dream dictionary to explore meanings of symbols at a deeper, unconscious level. The exercise is designed to reveal what areas of the body stress is affecting. You can then draw symbolic representation from their pictures to gain an insight to the causes and affects of their stress. A tool is created at the end that you can use whenever you need it. As you continue to do this activity at different times in your life, you will eventually create a ‘Symbol Dictionary’ to write down the symbolic meaning of your drawing. Next time you experience stress, you will be able to understand the messages you body is sending you.


1) Set up an A4 sheet of white paper and a selection of coloured markers


2) Draw an outline of your body on the sheet of paper.


3) Now, perform a 5-minute relaxation meditation. During this meditation focus on areas of your physical body that is experiencing symptoms of stress, such as muscular tension, headaches etc.


4) When the meditation is completed, draw symbols in these

stress areas of their body to represent your stress and the physical

experience of it. For example, this may include a tight coil to represent

tightness, or a dagger to represent sharp pains. Allow for 15 minutes to

complete this.


5) Upon completion, write your symbolism and what it

represents regarding stress in your body.


6) By writing down the symbols you can explore additional

meanings in your symbol dictionary that may be messages the body is

sending to you.


 

Here is my example:



The stress in my body is represented by a blue line on the points that were aching in that moment. The wavy lines to the right of the page indicate movement. I am aware that I need to lose weight and I think about this often. I often get headaches and neck ad shoulder pain and my knees grind. I know we can all talk about body positivity until the sun comes down, but if we live a lifestyle that does not accommodate healthy body systems, our bodies will fall apart. I feel stressed about getting to my end goal, but also know that movement will be the key. I am stressed about figuring out how to have the time to exercise, eat healthy, be a mum, own a business, complete a course and so on and so on. It’s just endless. In fact sometimes I feel overwhelmed about all the things I must be and do and say. This is also the first time I have drawn my self – as my self. I have always gone for symbolic representation, but I wanted to draw an accurate depiction on what I look like, instead of ‘hiding’ behind the art.



I hope this helps you all in your journey to de-stressing and make sure to keep a look out in our blog posts for other inspiring and liberating art activities so that you can live your best life!






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